John Duran Named WeHo’s Next Mayor at Awkward City Council Session

west hollywood city council, ian owens, deputygate
John Duran being sworn in as mayor pro tem in 2017 (Photo by Jon Viscott, courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

John Duran was chosen as the next mayor of West Hollywood during an awkward moment at the end of tonight’s City Council meeting.

The nomination of the mayor, a largely ceremonial position, was the last item on the City Council’s agenda. Before Mayor John Heilman invited his fellow Council members to make a nomination, former Councilmember Steve Martin, an outspoken critic of Duran, addressed the Council.

“It is difficult to imagine, as a gay man, that we could select a less appropriate rep for our community as mayor than John Duran,” Martin said, calling out the city’s $500,000 settlement of lawsuit filed against Duran by Ian Owens, his former deputy, who had accused Duran of sexual harassment, along with Duran’s dismissive comments about lesbians and allegations that he had misused his city credit card.

“I know you wrap yourself in the gay flag and hope that that makes it all right,” Martin said. “And maybe that does for some people…. I think you need to take a look at what you have done to our city.”

When Martin finished his comments, Heilman asked his fellow Council members to nominate someone for the position of mayor. That position traditionally rotates to the mayor pro tem, a role Duran has held for the past year.

John Duran in January 2012 yelling at Torie Osborne, who won the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club endorsement over opponent Betsy Butler, who Duran supported. Duran interrupted the meeting with shouts of “bullsh-t” and walked out, saying “I’m not being a misogynist, I’m working for a woman (a reference to Butler) Wake up! They’re not all lesbians!”

But Heilman got no response from Council members John D’Amico, Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister, who sat awkwardly silent. Heilman then nominated Duran as mayor, saying “his turn is next.” Duran, in turn, nominated D’Amico as mayor pro tem.

Given that no other nominations were made, the Council members were not required to vote in support of Heilman’s nomination. The official installation of Duran as mayor and D’Amico as mayor pro tem will take place at the City Council meeting on May 21.

Duran is a criminal defense lawyer who has served on the West Hollywood City Council since 2001. He has a law degree from Western State University College of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from CSU Long Beach. Duran is a native of Los Angeles and has been a resident of West Hollywood since 1987.

While the position of mayor typically rotates to the mayor pro tem, there have been exceptions. In April 2015, newly elected Councilmember Lindsey Horvath was named mayor and newly elected Councilmember Lauren Meister was named mayor pro tem. Duran had been in line for the position of mayor, but several council members, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, said they were concerned about allegations at the time that Duran had solicited sex from Owens while he was a city employee. Duran denied that accusation although he did admit to meeting Owens on Grindr, the gay sex hookup site, and having sex with him before hiring him as his deputy.

Michelle Rex, the former deputy to Councilmember John D’Amico, claimed in a second lawsuit that she lost her city job when the council deputy system was eliminated and that the elimination was retribution for her defense of Owens, with whom she had a close working relationship.

Rex lost that suit in a jury trial in May 2017, but testimony during the trial revealed that Duran had made a sexually derogatory comment about Elyse Eisenberg, head of the West Hollywood Heights Neighborhood Association, in an email exchange with Owens. In testimony before a jury, Owens alleged other sexually improper behavior by Duran at City Hall.

Duran also has faced criticism from some local residents for his solicitation of major donations for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, whose board he chairs, from contractors and developers doing business with the city.

For example, major donors to GMCLA’s annual Voice Awards this year are Athens Services, the city’s trash pickup contractor; the Charles Company, a major real estate developer that got City Council approval for the Melrose Triangle development project; Latham &; Watkins, a law firm whose Jim Arnone, a gay Republican lawyer, represents real estate interests doing business with the city; the Arts Club, an exclusive member-only club based in London that is negotiating with the City of West Hollywood to get permits necessary to build a nine-story private club at 8920 Sunset Blvd.; Demitri Samaha, whose family company developed the La Peer Hotel on La Peer Drive; Lawrence Legg and E.T. Legg & Associates, a billboard company that does business with the city; Faring Capital, a major West Hollywood real estate developer involved in the Roberton Lane and French Market projects, among others, and MedMen, a cannabis company that currently operates a medical cannabis dispensary and has a temporary license to sell recreational cannabis in West Hollywood. MedMen is expected to be one of many applicants for medical and recreational cannabis licenses this Spring.

Duran insists that he has not solicited donations from those individuals and companies, but that they have been solicited by staffers at GMCLA, whose board he chairs, and who have little or no political influence in West Hollywood themselves.

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Fed Up
Fed Up
4 years ago

Having lived in West Hollywood for nearly 14 years, the whispers of John Duran has circulated from as far back as I can remember. The case with Ian Owens should have been enough to have him removed and yet complacency by others is what keeps him on the city council. And that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of scandals with him. This guy is shady. I’m a gay man and I’m truly embarrassed to have this man as the Mayor of West Hollywood. It’s disgraceful and there needs to be major change as it relates to… Read more »

Jason Moor
Jason Moor
4 years ago
Reply to  Fed Up

Mr Duran is a opprotunist who has always gamed the system. He chose Weho because he correctly assumed the gay community could be easily manipulated and intimidated he has so far been correct .until a backbone grows in the West Hollywood city council he will continue to be correct. Take his power away and take yours back. This is 2018 not 1958.

Astute Observation
Astute Observation
4 years ago
Reply to  Jason Moor

Astute observation!

Cino
Cino
4 years ago

They move in…and NEVER leave! What happened to term limits. These people have become political junkies that will feed at the trough until they die.

SE
SE
4 years ago

This is absolutely disgraceful. Being a “progressive” city does not include swearing in a mayor caught up in a sexual harassment scandal. It doesn’t matter whether he was convicted or who paid for the settlement – it is clear how Duran has repeatedly abused his position of power in a variety of areas. The lack of backbone of both the City Council and the general public is exactly why people like Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes got away with their behavior for so long – complacence, indifference, fear. Why has this not been brought to the attention of the Los… Read more »

Yes on Electoral Districts
Yes on Electoral Districts
4 years ago
Reply to  SE

You are correct in pointing this out. It is the cumulative innuendo and disgrace that John Duran keeps perpetuating that is so offensive. By positioning himself in proximity to meaningful issues that he wears as adornments, rather than demonstrating true dedication and resolve is paramount to a type of plagiarism. By functioning on the gist of issues rather than the substance Duran is able to fast talk and lecture around issues rather than taking a focus on good judgement, details and follow through. Many may be fooled by this quick study but it lacks substance and is not appropriate for… Read more »

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
4 years ago

West Hollywood needs to have a Primary Election if we ever have a chance of weeding out these long-sitting, developer-friendly, backroom deal politicians so we don’t have to wait 12 years (term limits) to get them out. A Primary Election would wittle the typically long list of candidates down to give a newcomer a chance.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Eric Jon Schmidt
4 years ago
Reply to  Tom Smart

I agree 100%. and I agree about Districts. I also think there should be 100% transparency. There should be a page on the City’s official website listing every single donor for each Council member. I also think we need to cut City Payroll in half for those being paid to much money compared to other Cities. The City Manager is paid over $300,000. He has two Deputies who each are paid $200,000. This must stop. Instead of raising parking meter rates to pay to clean the sidewalks, lets do a City-wide payroll review and make some cuts to generate money.… Read more »

Yes on Electoral Districts
Yes on Electoral Districts
4 years ago

On Tuesday you posted: “I have decided not to comment on anything on Wehoville”.

Not believable.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
4 years ago

The nomination process featured the longest 20 seconds of silence in the history of the City Council

I have no agenda other than creating a sense of accountability that has been sadly lacking thanks to enablers such as Larry Block who constantly find reasons to rationalize immature or unethical conduct. As Larry is getting his “history” second hand I think he may want to check his facts. As I recall, Larry has never had a problem being negative if that served his issue du jour.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
4 years ago

The silence speaks volumes and in my mind is tantamount to a yes vote, making the entire council unworthy of reelection. It was a spineless moment which will not be forgotten. The entire council has lost any moral or ethical perch from which to criticize trump, or his ilk. Or, have we accepted the pathetic excuse that gay men are held to a different (lower?) standard? The soap opera that is West Hollywood politics has been picked up for yet another sad, embarrassing, and breathtaking (as in it leaves one unable to breathe) season. That said, in a city where… Read more »

Ty Geltmaker/James Rosen
Ty Geltmaker/James Rosen
4 years ago

As long as West Hollywood’s City Council is not organized according to electoral districts in which distinct geographical representatives are held accountable by their resident neighbors, and as long as the mayor’s position is a kind of honorific shuffled among a vanity club winning election with minimal votes, Duran and his ilk will prevail, whatever their vices or not. The current system resembles a country club, including non-resident managers/administrators for whom the WeHo brand (supported by parking fines and alcohol consumption) prevails over any real sense of “progressive” community. And as long as gay men falsely see arrival in WeHo… Read more »

Yes on Electoral Districts
Yes on Electoral Districts
4 years ago

Electoral districts make sense.
Exactly how would West Hollywood accomplish this?
If we could achieve term limits perhaps we could achieve this.
Could you please share what you know and perhaps start the process?

Eric Jon Schmidt
Eric Jon Schmidt
4 years ago

That comment by “eric” is not me. Hank can confirm that. I have decided not to comment on anything on WEHOville. Too much negativity and hate-based comments by people, most of whom won’t even identify themselves. I have nothing bad to say about any of the Current Council Members. I will be one of your next Council Members. I do not need the approval or Votes from WEHOville readers. You can come to the Council Meetings and make your comments to my face or come to My Office at City Hall, since I will keep normal business hours for Residents… Read more »

Joshua88
Joshua88
4 years ago

Nice sets of spines, CC.

Yola Dore
Yola Dore
4 years ago

Thanks Mayor Heilman for nominating our Mayor Pro Tempore John Duran to lead us through the coming year. We are blessed to have intelligent, good leadership from officials with progressive values.
Kudos to Mayor Elect John Duran and Mayor Pro Tempore Elect John D’Amico!

Eric
Eric
4 years ago

All of these politicians in West Hollywood are the scum of the Earth.

Don’t be so negative.
Don’t be so negative.
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Welcome back Eric Jon Schmidt.

Nicely Now!
Nicely Now!
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric

That’s not nice!
You always said you were so nice and just wanted to sit down and talk. Bwaaaaaaa!

jimmy palmieri
jimmy palmieri
4 years ago

Congratulations John Duran. With your history of activism, true caring of the outcasts, and constant help in creating programming for those in need of recovery services, I am proud to be your appointee to the Human Services Commission, and support your year as Mayor. Let’s have an amazing year, and as always accomplish more seemingly unattainable goals!

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